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 Category:  Fantasy Fiction
  Posted: April 9, 2019      Views: 90

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"Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I've ever written."

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finding refuge
"Shelter from the Storm" by Mark Valentine

I stagger through the ruins of downtown Chicago, walking over rubble where skyscrapers stood this morning. From every direction come the screech of sirens, cops’ whistles, peoples’ screams, peoples’ moans. The stimuli are too overwhelming to feel anything but numb. The dust blocks out the sky. There are no discernible streets anymore, no markers that could help one find one’s bearings. We are in uncharted territory.

Amid the pandemonium, my mind fixates on one objective; I must get home. I find Lake Michigan and turn right, knowing that I am now headed south. As I make my way through Grant Park, I am struck by how many people are finding normalcy in the midst of the mayhem. Many pedestrians wear headphones and stare at their iPhones – seemingly unaware that Armageddon has begun. Prostitutes continue to ply their trade.

Other activities seem less normal. Off to my left, a gang of young men are playing Russian roulette as casually as if it were a game of chess. An ice cream truck speeds through the middle of the park being chased and shot at by a Cadillac Escalade.
And in the background, music, that is not really music, blasts from speakers. People smoke things that weren’t meant to be smoked, and bare parts of their body that had been covered since we left Eden. The homeless who dwell in the park are indistinguishable now from the commodities traders who pass through it. They’re all homeless now.

Neo Nazis and Klansmen rally round the statue of Lincoln. Police officers shoot into crowds indiscriminately. Fathers abandon mothers and mothers abandon babies. The bars are full. So this is how it ends.

I walk faster and more determinedly, eventually breaking into a run. I must get home. I am surprised at the ease with which I move, as if the middle-aged overweight man that I am has given way to the runner I used to be.

At some point I become aware that the home toward which I am running is not the home that I own, but the home in which I grew up. I know that it was razed long ago, but I also know that it is my only refuge, that nothing else can bring order to this chaos.

The miles fly by effortlessly as I ignore the hellscape behind me and concentrate on the past that lies ahead of me – my childhood home. I almost float through Hermitage Park, and across 59th Street. The house comes into view – it is still, or once again, I don’t know which, there. I hope against hope that I will open the door to find the salvation that I need.

I am not disappointed.

Without knocking, I open the unlocked door to find my mother and father on the couch and my sisters sitting cross-legged on the floor, a bowl of popcorn between them. They are watching the Perry Como Show. His guest tonight is Dinah Shore, and they are singing a duet of “Dear Hearts and Gentle People”.

And now I feel that everything will be OK.


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